Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Shawn Harding, President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, via Zoom and filmed the fifteenth edition in a video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
Harding has served in several roles that have helped support agriculture in North Carolina, including being a farmer for over 30 years. Harding became the president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau in December 2019.
North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation was formed in 1936 as a nonprofit general farm organization to serve farmers and provide a unified voice for the interests and needs of the farming community. Today, North Carolina Farm Bureau serves as an advocate for our members at the local, state, national, and international levels – providing educational, economic, public affairs, marketing, and various other services to our members. Over the years, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation has grown into the largest general farm organization in the state with more than 500,000 member families, yet remaining true to its grassroots heritage and steadfast in its mission to advocate for farm and rural families.
Harding explained that the number one role of the North Carolina Farm Bureau is to be the voice of North Carolina farmers. He shared that nothing is more critical than agriculture. Harding serves as an advocate for farmers through local, state, national, and international levels. During the interview, Harding was in Washington, D.C., meeting with other Farm Bureau presidents about agriculture issues.
Harding stated that his love for Farm Bureau started as a young farmer. When his father passed away when he was young, he needed support on the farm. The Farm Bureau provided that support. Harding then participated on the Beaufort County Farm Bureau Board, then as president of the Beaufort County Farm Bureau, and served on the Farm Bureau State Board for 15 years, becoming president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau in 2019.
Harding said you have to be a farmer to be the president of the Farm Bureau. He said that it made sense because only a farmer who lived through farming would know how hard farming is and the challenges farmers face. Being a farmer was helpful for Harding, leading the Farm Bureau through the pandemic. He said the unknown is what farmers deal with every day. They make major decisions based on big challenges such as hurricanes, droughts, other disasters, and they learn from the decisions they make.
When it comes to the future of agriculture, Harding shared he is most excited about technology and young people interested in agriculture careers. He said technology is helping keep farmers in business. Solving problems, like the research at the new Plant Sciences Building, will help farmers for years to come. He also said that young people are more interested in where their food comes from, see it as an exciting field, and want to go into it. Although Harding said farmers literally put their money in the ground and hope to make a return, he can’t help but be an optimist. He loves supporting the farmers who put food on the table by amplifying their voice.
Critical Conversations is a feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our August 11th edition of LEAF Lines.